The UNC Cheating Scandal and Why It Matters To You

The UNC Cheating Scandal and Why It Matters To You

Recently an academic cheating scandal rocked the world of college athletics. Over the last eighteen years more than three thousand students at the University of North Carolina (UNC) “took” classes that did not exist. In many cases this boosted GPAs to ensure athlete eligibility and the graduation of otherwise unqualified students. The NCAA as a whole faces increased scrutiny in light of the findings and without doubt the university’s football and basketball teams face some stiff penalties.

What surprises many interested observers of the unfolding events is the collective yawn coming from those outside the world of sports regarding this academic fraud. Half of the students involved had no affiliation with sports but few seem to care that numerous non-athletes cheated. This apathy is why this scandal matters to you.

Continue reading The UNC Cheating Scandal and Why It Matters To You

AP Credits (With or Without the Classes)

AP Credits (With or Without the Classes)

High School Class Test

Heads up high schoolers!

In my workshops when I mention the topic of Advanced Placement (AP) credits it seems they have great name recognition and people get the idea of earning college credits while in high school.  But few actually do anything about this opportunity because of the proliferation of bad information out there. When I detail how AP credits work the light bulbs go off and excitement builds. Everyone can see this for the opportunity it is once we clear up two major and prevalent misconceptions: Continue reading AP Credits (With or Without the Classes)

Chart: Social Mobility

Chart: Social Mobility

Upward mobility top and bottom 10

This week’s chart comes from rankings compiled by the Social Mobility Index (SMI) and put into this handy format by Rick Newman in an article for Yahoo Finance.

I appreciate what SMI has done here. I’ve seen tons of rankings put out by the various sources of colleges on all sorts of merits, including all around best colleges, top party schools and stone cold sober schools, best colleges for nature lovers, etc, etc. We must typically take these with a grain of salt because “best” is a subjective credential and the criterion can be misleading for students of other opinions. They also tend to not place all that much emphasis on the sorts of practical financial consequences their students must face once in the workaday world.

However, this ranking system, which incorporates metrics of former students’ financial health, is geared to “highlight the schools that do the best job of helping disadvantaged students graduate with the ability to start a career free of crushing levels of debt.” We’re getting warmer…

Continue reading Chart: Social Mobility

Chart: Number of Hours at Minimum Wage Needed to Cover Tuition

Chart: Number of Hours at Minimum Wage Needed to Cover Tuition


An article by Jarrett Moreno at Attn: ran the above chart which shows how many hours of minimum wage a student must work in order to afford the average blended tuition of private and state colleges. The debate internal to that website got interesting. The author originally intended the piece to pressure legislative action toward an improved minimum wage but after lots of interaction with the online comments he penned another piece in which he acknowledged the bigger, truer problem to be that of tuition hikes.

Whatever the reason, it is true that today a student must work a full time job at minimum wage nearly year-round to afford the average tuition whereas previous generations could knock out school bills with a summer job alone. What to do about this fact? Do we write our congresspersons and hope they get around to raising minimum wage or imposing tuition freezes on our schools? Or do we indeed work full-time, year-round while maintaining a full class schedule?

Can they? Can we? Continue reading Chart: Number of Hours at Minimum Wage Needed to Cover Tuition

Do Your Own Thing

Do Your Own Thing


Recently I had a client in my office struggling with the fact that his kid wants more money for extras but won’t seek employment. He keeps hearing a lot of buts to his advice to go out and get a job. “But dad, all the good jobs are taken around campus.” “But dad, I can’t consistently know when I have time available to show up at a part time job with a shifting assignment load.” “But dad, the experience won’t help me down the road.” All of which can actually be legitimate rebuttals, my client admits, while all the same wondering why it has to be on him to put gas in the kid’s tank.

Legitimate buts if….

If… we assume a lack of help-wanted signs means a lack of income opportunities. If…we assume work has to be done according to a set schedule. If…we assume college jobs get left behind when graduation rolls around. If… we assume we must be an employee. But why assume such things? Continue reading Do Your Own Thing

“Guaranteed” Sure Sounds Nice

“Guaranteed” Sure Sounds Nice

Multiple choice examination form or customer satisfaction survey

 Scholarships are often seen as too numerous to sort through, highly competitive, and onerous in their requirements. Students hesitate to put much time into the various essays and other requirements because it’s seemingly a crap shoot as to whether or not anything comes of it.

But numerous colleges have arrangements in which they basically say “if you have accomplished X, Y, and/or Z to this point we promise to give you tuition money.” This class of scholarships acts more like grants, in that if you meet the qualifications put forth you are assured an award in return. Hence their name: guaranteed scholarships. Continue reading “Guaranteed” Sure Sounds Nice

On Body Slams and Scholarship Clues

On Body Slams and Scholarship Clues



For some time a video has been making the rounds on Youtube of Anthony Wunder, student at The Ohio State University, getting body slammed by a coach after he ran onto the field and toward the bench. I’ve watched it more times than I care to admit, giddy with delight beyond reason each time.

The incident provides a powerful lesson to the college affordologist, and not the obvious one of always betting on the former linebacker coming out on top in a tackling contest versus engineering students.

Continue reading On Body Slams and Scholarship Clues

Getting Stuck: Of SUVs and Bills

Getting Stuck: Of SUVs and Unpaid Bills

death by gps joint (2)

Recently my family embarked to my cousin’s house a couple hours away. Getting there via paved roads means driving east into the town beyond them, fighting through downtown traffic, and then circling back west to their place at the edge of the woods. It annoys us to no end to take such a circuitous route when the miles driven exceed by a fair amount the miles a crow would fly to get there. So when my cousin discovered a more direct dirt road route two or three highway exits earlier we were excited to try it. He gave us the directions, which I ignored in the moment. No need to pull over to the shoulder and write it all down, after all. When I hit the appropriate exit I fired up the ol’ GPS which definitely seemed to have a good tack on which forest roads to take.

We then continued to simply follow the turn by turn instructions and shortly thereafter found ourselves in quite the jam. Our last turn off of the mountain required every ounce of our SUV’s capacity as we slowly picked and slid our way down a rocky, washed out hillside until we could go no further. Backing up merely meant spinning out and to go forward would slam us in a rut so deep and jutted I feared debilitating personal and vehicular damages. Night enveloped us, the kids panicked, and my wife had had enough. We gathered our luggage, walked the rest of the way down the rocky crags to dirt road intersection by flashlight, and called in a ride. After having read about the proverbial “death by GPS” I became its latest victim.

Eventually I got the rig back to town in one piece but not until after a lot of time spent clearing the way with hand tools, damage to my undercarriage, and several harrowing moments at the wheel careening around between rocks and hard places.

What does this have to do with college affordability? Plenty.
Continue reading Getting Stuck: Of SUVs and Bills

The Particular Dangers of School Loans

The Particular Dangers of School Loans


Are student loans, in fact, particularly dangerous? Let’s start off by acknowledging that all loans are in some way dangerous. The Bible stops short of calling debt sin but discourages their use vehemently. It variously refers to loans as curses, stupidity, and snares among other things. “The borrower is slave to the lender” still rings true in our free society, with “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go” being the driving force behind disagreeable careers everywhere. While financial geeks can dither about the differences between “good debt” and “bad debt,” even in instances of so-called good debt such as mortgages and student loans the borrower should heed these warnings and proceed with utmost caution. Especially when lenders structure their loans to set the borrower up for failure.

Continue reading The Particular Dangers of School Loans

Chart: Lifetime Earnings By Major

 Chart: Lifetime Earnings By Major

Lifetime Earnings By Major


(Click on the chart above to go to the original report or here for a fuller breakdown in pdf)

This chart comes to us from a report by Brad Hershbein and Melissa S. Kearney of the Hamilton project titled “Major Decisions: What Graduates Earn over Their Lifetimes.”  The chart/research lets us know a few key findings that we may find helpful beyond the usual high school vs college earnings averages.

Continue reading Chart: Lifetime Earnings By Major